Protecting small businesses remains high on ACCC's agenda

16 February 2016

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission is continuing to focus upon misleading and deceptive conduct complaints from small businesses, as revealed in the latest biannual Small business in focus report.

This report, the eleventh in the series, highlights some of the ACCC’s key work in the small business and franchising sectors between 1 July and 31 December 2015. It also contains the latest small business and franchising complaints data.

“Over the last six months, the ACCC received almost 5,000 complaints from small businesses. Concerns about misleading conduct remain the biggest issue for small businesses,” ACCC Deputy Chair Dr Michael Schaper said.

“Conduct resulting in substantial small business detriment has been a priority for the ACCC and we want to make it clear that this type of conduct is unacceptable.”

In November, the ACCC achieved a significant court outcome when Safety Compliance Pty Ltd was ordered to pay a penalty of $515,000 for making false or misleading representations to small businesses in connection with the supply of safety wall charts and first aid kits.

In December, the Federal Court ordered the franchisor of the Electrodry Carpet Cleaning business was ordered to pay total penalties of $215,000 for its involvement in the publishing of fake testimonials on the internet.

“While online testimonials can be a useful and genuine marketing tool for businesses to advertise to consumers, deliberately making or inducing false or misleading representations in testimonials breaches the Australian Consumer Law and confers an unfair advantage when competing against businesses that do the right thing,” Dr Schaper said.

The report also outlines the ACCC’s recent and upcoming activities to help businesses understand their rights and responsibilities under the new business-to-business unfair contract terms protections.

“To help businesses big and small to make sense of the new law, the ACCC together with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission, is holding a free interactive webinar on 16 March,” Dr Schaper said.

The ACCC’s online resources continued to be popular during the July–December 2015 period, with more than 450 000 views of the ACCC’s business webpages, and over 11 500 users of the ACCC’s three free online education programs. These online programs are available at www.ccaeducationprograms.org.

Small business in focus is available at http://www.accc.gov.au/publications/small-business-in-focus/small-business-in-focus-1-july-2015-to-31-december-2015

The ACCC Small Business webinar

‘The new business-to-business unfair contract terms law – what you need to know and do now’ will be held on Wednesday 16 March 2016 at 7pm (AEDST).

Register for the live webinar - The new business-to-business unfair contract terms law – what you need to know and do now

This webinar will provide a general overview of the new business-to-business unfair contract terms protections and, if your business offers standard form contracts to other businesses, what you need to do before the law takes effect.

It will also explain:

  • which contracts and terms are covered by the new law
  • the types of terms that may be unfair
  • how to determine if a contract term may be unfair
  • what you can do if you receive a contract that you think includes an unfair term.

Background

Safety Compliance Pty Ltd and individuals ordered to pay penalties for misleading small businesses

Federal Court orders Electrodry franchisor to pay $215,000 in penalties for fake testimonials

Release number: 
MR 12/16
Media enquiries: 
Media team - 1300 138 917

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